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Problems and methods of phonological analysis
Some scholars consider that frequency of occurrence of phonemes and phonemic clusters may be a factor of stability in language in the sense that frequent phonemes resist modifications and modify the rare one.
Consequently, the main problems of phonological analysis are as follows:
a) the identification of the phonemic inventory for each individual language;
b) the identification of the inventory of phonologically relevant (distinctive) features of a language;
c) the interrelationships among the phonemes of a language.
There is one more big problem in phonology- theory of distinctive features.
It was originated by N.S. Trubetskoy and developed by such foreign scientists as R. Jacobson, C.G. Frant, M. Halle, N. Chomsky, P. Ladefoged, H.Kučera, G.K. Monroe and many Soviet/Russian phonologists, such as L.R. Zinder, G. S. Klychkov, V.Ya. Plotkin, Steponavičius and many others.
The first problem of phonological analysis is to establish the phonemes in a definite language. This can be carried out only by phonological analysis based on phonological rules. There are two methods to do that: the distributionalmethod and semantic method.
The distributional method is based on the phonological rule that different phonemes can freely occur in one and the same position, while allophones of one and the same phoneme occur in different positions and, therefore, cannot be phonologically opposed to each other.
The aim of the phonological analysis is, firstly, to determine which differences of sounds are phonemic (i.e. relevant for the differentiation of the phonemes) and which are non-phonemic and, secondly, to find the inventory of the phonemes of this or that language.
A number of principles have been established for ascertaining the phonemic structure of a language. For an unknown languagethe procedure of identifying the phonemes of a language as the smallest language units has several stages.
1) The first step is to determine the minimum recurrent segments (segmentation of speech continuum) and to record them graphically by means of allophonic transcription. To do this an analyst gathers a number of sound sequences with different meanings and compares them. For example, the comparison of [stIk] and [stæk] reveals the segments (sounds) [I] and [æ], comparison of [stIk] and [spJk] reveals the segments [st] and [sp] and the further comparison of these two with [tIk] and [txk], [sIk] and [sæk] splits these segments into smaller segments [s], [t], [p]. If we try to divide them further there is no comparison that al lows us to divide [s] or [t] or [p] into two, and we have therefore arrived at the minimal segments. From what we have shown it follows that it is possible to single out the minimal segments opposing
them to one another in the same phonetic context or, in other words, in sequences which differ in one element only.
2) The next step in the procedure is the arranging of sounds into functionally similar groups. We do not know yet what sounds are contrastive in this language and what sounds are merely allophones of one and the same phoneme.
There are two most widely used methods of finding it out. They are the distributional method and the semantic method.